Open house kicks off new diversity initiative

by Anna Buckley / Beacon Staff • September 27, 2012

Diversity tharp
VP of Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears welcomes students with refreshments at the relocated office on the second floor of the Transportation Building.
VP of Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears welcomes students with refreshments at the relocated office on the second floor of the Transportation Building.

President M. Lee Pelton launched a plan to build community engagement at Emerson College under the leadership of newly-appointed Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears.

On Tuesday, Pelton sent out an email to members of the Emerson community announcing the start of the Inclusive Excellence Initiative. According to the email, it will, “inextricably link how we engage with diversity to the achievement of institutional excellence.”

Spears expressed her enthusiasm for the initiative at an open house in the new Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“An institution that has been literally founded on the power of giving voice and finding voice — how could we not do this work?” she said. “Inclusion really is about giving voice and making sure every member of our community is valued, respected, affirmed, and has voice.”

Spears stood with attendees, some of whom were clutching coffees or holding trays of pastries, among gray file cabinets and a bright purple couch and chairs.
According to Spears, the open house was held to welcome members of the college to the relocated office, and to give them an opportunity to meet the administrative and student staff of the department.

Spears said she was very pleased with the turnout, of about 30 students.

“I think we had a good variety of people from different offices across the institution,” said Spears. “It gave me a nice opportunity to meet some people I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet with yet, and also, whenever you have an opportunity to bring people together in a community, it’s a good thing.”

The office is now on the second floor of the Transportation Building located at 10 Park Plaza, whereas before it was on the 10th floor of the Walker Building.  Spears said that attendees of the open house were complimentary of the spirited purple furniture and accent walls within the new office.

“While people find great joy in our purple furniture, its actually really strategic,” Spears said. “I think it’s important for us, especially given our location here in the Transportation Building. We’re a little bit outside of the typical walking path for faculty, staff, and students, so having visual and visible representation that we are indeed of Emerson is really important.”

Jeeyoon Kim, a senior journalism major, has been working at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for three years. The move to the new office has its benefits and disadvantages, said Kim.

“I wish we were more central to campus because I feel like now that we’re out here, it’s almost harder for people to get to us because they don’t know where we are,” Kim said.
“But I do really appreciate the bigger space. We had one room before, and that’s not okay, because it’s hard to do really big work when you have tiny quarters.”
According to Kim, the new initiative is indicative of the big plans Spears has for Emerson.

“If she’s doing big scale things, that means she has big ideas for Emerson,” Kim said. “The day that she walked on campus and started talking to people, everyone just knew that she was the one.”

Spears said that she already feels like she belongs at Emerson. Spears will be hosting another event, a student reception, on Oct. 2 in the Bill Bordy Theater  from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

“I am so happy to be here,” Spears said. “It feels like I have come home, and that this community is a community of people who are my people—[they’re] expressive and quirky and have voice and are not afraid to be exactly who they are in the world. What better environment to work in than that?”